tv The Stream Al Jazeera February 11, 2015 11:30am-12:01pm EST
for 3,000 recipients. if the usda and department of defense don't keep detailed records, how could they evaluate their system and best help families. joining us now is the director of research of military families and a u.s. army captain and graduate fellow at the university of texas, an air force veteran who has written on this topic, and is skeptical about the cause for alarm. and susan's husband is in active military duty in the air force. welcome to all of you. debra is the middle class way of life that people associate the military having provided for decades on its way out? >> i don't know that it is on its way out, but we see a big differential between those who join the military as enlisted
service members and those who join as officers. so your base salary for an e-1, for somebody who is just joining is about $20,000, and you see an officer coming in at about $40,000. so there is this big pay differential so you can imagine somebody who is making $20,000 and has 2.5 children, that doesn't go very far. to you can see that -- that there's some struggles there. >> yeah indeed. you know susan, the numbers that we reference getting into the show are incomplete at best because that's all that is available, but they certainly indicate that more military families could be hovering around the poverty line. is there an untold story here in your opinion? >> i -- i think there definitely is. i think the -- the biggest problem is that anybody receiving welfare in general,
usually feels shame, guilt, it's not something they want to share, so when it comes to the military, that definitely carries a higher amount of that. i know that, you know we have received them from about six months after he got here in tucson, for about two and a half years continuing through that and the reason, you know when we would go into do any kind of paperwork, anything like that we were almost looked at to the point of why are you here? you should make enough money, and it was that way until they decided to start counting our house and allowance income. >> our community is having a back and forth here:
however, goober of doom, responds: so brandon, i'm going to go to you with this. look conflicting numbers. we have $136 million in food stamps and there is a number that says last -- in 2011 there were 5,000 families using food stamps and that has been reduced to 2,000. are these families really in need? is it increasing? is it getting worse for them? >> i think all of the guests have been absolutely right so far, debra and susan. we have seen the number quadruple to about 104 million in redeeming in snap benefits and this is reflecting the financial crisis of 2008 and the changing demographics of the 21st century. today's soldiers are coming in a
little bit more seasoned with a spouse or partner mouths to feed and maybe the private sector and the financial crisis was tough, and they see long-term stability in the military lifestyle, so they are making the transition in their mid-to late 20s, whereas our prototypical young enlisted soldier is 18 or 19 years old without a family. >> kevin you are skeptical of this being problematic. why so? >> we always talk about how the base pay is real low, and it's true the base pay is low, but typically military members are given things such as bah, money to pay for housing and food and stuff like that. and when we take that into consideration, it actually
raises you know, what a military member would be making. >> susan does it raise it enough to make it easy to make ends meet? >> no i have -- you know i don't have a problem sharing this because it is quite honestly public information that is easy to find. my husband's [ inaudible ] housing for every month is 1,000 1 -- $1,062 and since we live on base we don't see any of that. sometime this year they are going to charge over our charge under based on their average electrical cost that they picked up from checking houses and seeing what we should be using. and bas is a supplement to cover my husband getting fed since he is not eating at the chow hall
and that $357 a month. so you break it down i mean it's not really making enough of an impact. >> susan our community is chiming in about who to blame for this financial insecurity. chris says: smj says: debra who is it to blame? >> well i would just like to make a couple of points about what the last guest said. i think it's important to note that some of these benefits there are -- are there for a reason. they are for retention, and recruitment, and we want to get the best people in the military. we want the best people to stay
in the military. somebody mentioned health care. one of the reasons why we have a good health care system in the military is because we need a ready force. we need healthy service members, and so that is why we have the healthcare system that we do. another guest mentioned bas, that is -- >> [ inaudible ]. >> -- yes. those amounts are very low. and if you look at an average family with 2.5 kids, the usda puts out sat ticses that the average expenditure for food is about 8 to $900 per month. if you look at an e-1 who is making $20,000, even with that bas added in and you have housing added in if you are spending 8 to $900 a month, which is at the low end, there is not a lot left over.
>> nathan christianson gave us a statement which reads: and i should add that my producer just told me nathan was talking to her and added that starting in january of this year, they have started keeping track of who is using these food stamp benefits at the come us sar. so they'll have this data a year from now. coming up putting food on the table isn't the only challenge. military spouses are unemployed at a rate more than four times the national average.
only on al jazeera america. i am a former military officer my name is elliott akerman, i'm a former military officer, and author and i'm in "the stream." susan before the break, i promised a look at employment for military husbands and wives, 30%. that's how many of our military spouses age 18 to 24 are unemployed that's a huge amount. what impact does that have on a family's financial stability? >> it's a multifaceted problem, definitely. i think the biggest problem that we face specifically is child care. i know that's a common concern. you know i have about six years of retail experience half of that management and i have never made over $8.25 an hour so if i was to take that
full-time, i would pay more out of pocket to work 40 hours a week including child care than i would to stay at home. it's hard to continue post secondary education, because you never know if you are going to move. schools are -- they change how they transfer credit so if it's actually going to be worth anything at the next school. >> military families move around a lot. is that something that employers shy away from too when they are like we don't want to spend the money training you if you are going to leave in a few months? >> definitely. we have been here for four years, but even the applications that i put in the first thing they address is the schedule if he changes his schedule or if he has to work nights or evenings there's nothing i can do about that.
uncertain. >> boost our families does a survey each year of military families. last year we had about 5100 respondents, and they echo what you are saying here. uncertainty in military life child care all of these things impact spouse employment. which has a huge financial impact on military families especially if you are at the low end of these pay grades and you need that second income to make ends meet if your spouse is not employed and you talked about the 30% unemployment rate among military spouses. in that compares to about 8% unemployment rate among normal civilians as a whole. so it's a much higher rate and that has an impact on what families have in their pocketbook. >> kevin there's a disproportionate about of debt
with military families. is this an issue of financial literacy? is this just a consequence of having a -- one spouse working in what should be a two-working household? to what do you attribute this? >> well i think you could definitely -- we're kind of hitting the nail on the head. in this day and age, you do need both spouses working. you can't really depend on one income anymore. and this isn't just military. it's in the civilian world also. so i can see how the moving around would, you know, make it harder for spouses to find jobs so you don't have that second income readily available. but, you know, this -- this isn't just military this is -- the civilian world too. as far as debt goes i know it is real easy to get loans in the
military because the banks know that you have that steady income. if you have a four-year contract you know, they know that you are making this much for, you know, a set amount of time so it's real easy for them to give out loans. i wanted a car loan and they were real quick to give that to me so that could be part of the problem with debt. >> lisa if i may jump in for a moment -- >> please. >> -- and exco kevin's sentiment here. part of the problem with debt is some of this money is too available to service members in terms of predator lending. there are a lot of payday lenders out there, and every state's policies differ on this issue, but who seek out the military, and service members who are young and impressionable and looking to make a major purchase like a car or something, and they'll record their information beyond the
personal, but the professional so they will look to the chain of command to leverage pressure on the service member if he or she isn't paying up on time. and it's a real problem. >> brandon a lot of our community is chiming in on the proposed defense spending bill and the effect this will have on military families: and then we have one more. : and debbie i know you wanted to talk about this this proposed spending budget. >> i think what one of the things that is happening now. there is always a lot of uncertainty in military life and people have become accustomed to that but right
now, you have a lot of things changing at once and all of them having potential changes. changes in the commissary -- >> a billion dollars potential change. >> yes, they are not potential, they are changes now, now that the budget has been approved. you have changes in healthcare expenses changes in housing allowance, and all of those things are -- basically add up and are essentially money out of people's pockets. >> that changes their buying power, and that will have a broader economic impact as well. >> i imagine it will. >> coming up that spending bill looks to cut the number of active troops on duty but the financial burdens don't end when they take off that uniform. of the day's events. then at 8:00, john seigenthaler digs deeper into the stories of the day.
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and then we got this one that is sobering: and susan, i want to go to you, look your husband will eventually transfer out of the military what are some of the unique challenges that he is looking forward to? have you thought about this yet? >> you know, the uncertainty, specifically, that was brought up earlier, especially with the budget healthcare changing all of those things that really made us think about it and it's -- you know what he does -- he's a jet engine mechanic that's in pretty high demand especially with the experience he has, especially back home where we're from in
kansas, and even with all of that we put feelers out there, just to see what he could find even with all of that there were still many times where they had no openings regardless. so it -- was very -- you know that's pretty much what made our decision, we don't really have a decision at this point other than to stay in. >> brandon early on in the show susan alluded to this idea that it was difficult for members of the military to ask for help because they are having to go to their co and it can feel shameful and you can feel compromised by doing that so even though you have these programs available to folks in the military for assistance do you find that it's harder for them maybe to seek you out and get that help? >> i think it often could be shameful for some of these soldiers and their families. like any family who is having financial trouble, the topic is often delicate and stressful,
often just within the family. so it can be daunting and stigmatizing. the army and military have a strong social safety yet, and we do everything we can to protect them from some of the predatory ledgers -- lenders out there, but my wife is a veteran, she transitioned out, working with the va to get gi bill benefits and getting the resume ready and getting out to job fairs, it can be overwhelming. >> waj and i, debra were talking about this yesterday. we both feel like we have been seeing more commercials and hearing more radio spots pushing to higher veterans focusing on their vast array of ability in
the work force. are you noticing more of that as well and is it making any sort of measurable difference? >> yeah i think a lot of companies are recognizing the value of hiring veterans and what they bring to the workplace, and there is also a movement to hire military spouses, and i think when service members are in the military they learn leadership skills. they learn how to make decisions without all of the information that they need. they learn team work. these are all skills that are assets in the business environment, so i think companies are starting to see that and they are starting to see the value of hiring veterans, and at the same time military spouses bring some of those things to the workplace as well, and we have companies like usaa is a great example. their whole mission is focused on the military family but also have a hiring mission, they hire veterans and military spouses,
and they are i would say a best practice in that. >> susan we have about a minute left in the show can you give us your thoughts on what it is going to take to brings the stability of middle class sort of back to the military family. what needs to happen? >> i think the biggest thing that needs to be recognized is i think the majority of the public standings behind the military. i think there are some people that don't. the biggest thing i could say to anybody really is that this isn't a normal career or life and we're okay with that. all we ask is that things aren't taken away that make us harder for us to live. i don't spend anywhere near 8 or $900 in groceries. i spend maybe 600, and we have three children and another one on the way. >> thank you all for a great
discussion. waj and i will see you all online. ♪ another round of peace talks on the ukraine crisis, as -- more civilians are killed in the violence. ♪ you are watching al jazeera, i'm david foster. as many as 300 migrants feared to have drowned in the mediterranean, trying to reach europe. it's too dangerous, the u.k. and france follow the u.s. and close their embassies in yemen.